Exclusive: This is the 2014 Chevy Corvette

The exclusive images you see here, derived from hours spent secretly poring over the sheetmetal of two seventh-generation Corvettes, show the next step in the supercar's iconic evolution. These aren't photos, but this is absolutely the next-generation Chevy Corvette in ZR1 trim. GM so doesn't want you to see these.

Love it or hate it, the Chevrolet Corvette is an American icon. For most of its 60 years, the 'Vette's shown that a commodity-focused U.S. automaker can confound expectations and compete with the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. The seventh-generation Corvette — or C7 Corvette — as fan-boys and GM insiders call it — is designed to further confound those expectations.

These renderings were derived from hours this weekend I (and our designer) spent in secret, poring over the completely uncamouflaged "sheetmetal" of two versions of the next-gen Corvette. With limited time, we decided to, rather than show you the first one, a base level Corvette, we focused our rendering efforts instead on the high-performance ZR1 trim level.

None of our sources were willing to go on the record or allow me to run their name for fear they might lose their jobs. That's also why I'm showing renderings rather than actual photos — I don't care if it might cast doubt on the veracity of the styling — but I didn't want anyone losing their job over this.

That said, we showed these images to three different sources at General Motors — and all three confirmed that the images you see here accurately portray the ZR1 trim level for the seventh-generation Corvette. A fourth source — a non-GM employee — confirmed that the vehicle we show here is one of two Initial Vehicle Engineering Release (IVER) vehicles that's been making the rounds at the Milford Proving Grounds.

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The ZR1 trim level is expected to come out later than the base model Corvette — which is slated for a 2014 model year and a reveal at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show.

At first glance, you think this is nothing more than an evolutionary change to America's supercar. But give it a second for that initial enormously deceiving glance to dissipate into a double-take. The changes — like the very Camaro-esque rear taillights, the over-exaggerated side vents, and a new window in the rear quarter — will be absolutely polarizing to any Corvette fan-boy. And other items — like a split-rear window, a la the Corvette Stingray, won't make it into production.

Tell us what you see — and what you think and like or don't like — in the comments below.